Liam wrote earlier this week about the use of Yacouba Sylla in Aston Villa’s midfield and I wanted to expand on that particular piece to look at my preferred midfield, and why those players deserve their slot.
For the purposes of the selection, I am going to assume that we are filling three midfield places, that the roles performed by Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann are considered part of the forward line (and thus are not included), and that we are looking to put the best person for each role in their place.
For some, this might seem like a deviation from what the manager currently does and, in a sense, I agree. However, because this is based on my own thoughts rather than what Paul Lambert thinks, I’m going to adopt the mentality of what I would do, not what I necessarily expect the manager to do.
First up, we can look at Sylla. Liam argued strongly that he should be included in the team and, in my opinion, he certainly deserves to be. In the recent past, Villa have suffered from something of a short midfield, an issue that hasn’t necessarily been fixed yet.
Whilst Sylla isn’t a massive player, he is a height closer to what I would be looking to play if I was manager. Some can suggest that height doesn’t necessarily matter away from defence and, in certain leagues, I might be prone to agree. However, in the Premier League, I think having strong physical presence across the park is part of what helps many teams.
It isn’t just height that gets Sylla into the team either. In my opinion, not only does he do the simple things well, but he can get up and down the pitch effectively. In recent games where he has played, he has managed to both attack and defend strongly, proving that a player can be capable of both, something our full backs often seem to imply is impossible.
Moving on to my second choice, I’m going for Leandro Bacuna. Whilst he has certainly performed strongly at right back – and has been in better form than Matthew Lowton – I think Bacuna is better suited to playing in a more advanced role.
Yes, one could argue that the full back role in a Lambert team is certainly advanced at times, but I think Bacuna, despite his versatility, is better served making a particular role his own, not having to fit in all over the pitch.
It isn’t just me who thinks the same way though. After moving to Villa from FC Gronigen, Bacuna said that he wanted to have more stability in terms of the role, given that he had been a utility player when playing in the Eredivisie.
Of course, teams are based on what the manager wants, not necessarily what the player prefers, but I do believe Bacuna is better in a dedicated attacking role. Not only does he have a great ability to take a free kick – though that isn’t necessarily wholly relevant to his position he plays – but he can take on players when he needs to, playing attacking roles effectively.
Again, full backs, especially in a Lambert team, are expected to roam forwards, so there is an argument for Bacuna to play there. However, and I might be a minority here, I want to focus on developing Bacuna’s attacking ability – something that I think can be polished further – than giving him more a more defensive focus.
Sure, Bacuna would need to defend if the team needs it – but then that should apply to every player – but I do believe he is better off settling in midfield rather than playing multiple positions.
For the last player in midfield, it probably comes as no surprise to pick Fabian Delph. Despite a career that has stuttered at Villa Park – mostly due to injury – Delph has started to show real signs that he is the player we thought he might be following his debut.
I remember seeing him playing in his first game for Villa, and I was impressed. Sure, he was a rough diamond, but Delph had potential. Not only that, he wasn’t overly expensive considering.
However, his price tag could arguably still have been high enough to weigh on his shoulders when injurt blighted his ability to play. Whilst Delph is undoubtedly a confident player, you do get the feeling that it is only this season that we are seeing any kind of extended period where he shows the ability to back up that confidence.
This season, he has been one of the best midfielders in the country when looking at the key statistics, and such evidence should do him no harm when it comes to staking a long term claim.
In addition, it almost seems impossible that he is only
2624. Whilst 2624 isn’t exactly a baby in firs team terms, Delph does seem like part of the furniture at Villa. I know he hasn’t had the career longevity of Gabby at Villa Park, he does feel like he has been here a comparatively long term.
Part of that is down to the fact that he has been here a fair amount of time, especially when we look at both the transfers Lambert has made, and the need for the squad to be augmented. Both situations point to real evidence that what Villa was pre-Lambert was both shallow in team terms, but at the same time seemingly filled with unusable individuals.
Reading that paragraph back, it seems wholly contradictory, upside down and puzzling. Perhaps that is because Villa have been similarly puzzling, frustrating, and difficult to watch for a fair time, not overly helped by a constant chop-changing of personnel, on and off the pitch.
Perhaps that is why I long for some stability when it comes to the midfield, though that need extends to the team as a whole. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to give people stable places if they don’t deserve them, but stability is good, and I think we could do better if we had a little more.
Anyway, the big question here is what do you think? What is your preferred midfield, and what roles would each player occupy? Would you prefer a 4-2-3-1? A 4-3-3? Maybe a 4-4-2? Let me know your thoughts below.